University presses around the world contribute to what the Association of University Presses has called bibliodiversity by publishing nearly 20,000 books each year on emerging areas in the arts and sciences as well as discussions of pressing social issues.
Not strictly commercial, yet still subject to market forces, UPs have long placed their titles with academic libraries and in local bookstores.
As readers confront the endless choices on the online bookshelf, though, what should university presses offer to hold the public’s interest while satisfying the strict demands of scholarship?
Can UP editors and staff sustainability meet the demands of social movements calling for a remake of publishing?
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Oxford University, which began printing books in 1478, operates one of the oldest and most prestigious of university presses. In the US, Niko Pfund is President and Academic Publisher at OUP, where he faces challenges from the marketplace of ideas and from colleagues keen to redefine publishing and publishers.
“The changes that we’ve seen that have rolled over the social landscape and the academic landscape over the course of the last four or five years already have led to lasting change,” Pfund tells me. “We’ve instituted a series of guidelines around how we ask our authors to do their work; how we ask reviewers to think of the peer review process; and certainly how we hire.
“I have to say I think a lot of the last five years have given a new life to a lot of industry veteran,” Pfund says. “It’s challenging. It’s hard. It’s complicated. It’s stressful. But I think it’s long overdue, and I think that the changes we’ve made already have been well received and are yielding pretty positive results.”